Quarterback Chase Lyles enters the 2014 season as one of two seniors on the Sacred Heart Gremlins, which leaves several young players to lead and develop.
Lyles has had familiar faces around for his first three seasons, including running back Michael Hohne. Three of last season’s three offensive linemen will also be replaced with younger players, including center Clint Spangler.
“I think it’s going to be fine,” Lyles said. “I’ve played with and grown up with most of these guys, so I think we’re pretty comfortable together.”
One familiar face that returns is senior receiver and cornerback Ben Smeltzer, so the pair are teaming up to lead the 2014 Gremlins.
“I feel like the chemistry is really well because they are all looking up to us and following by our example,” Lyles said.
Lyles says the underclassmen are listening and learning.
“There’s a lot of young guys stepping up too being leaders on the team, which is good to see,” Lyles said.
A few years ago Lyles was a player following the example of the upperclassmen, so he’s trying to educate the freshmen and sophomores to give it all they have each year in high school.
“What I taught them was don’t wait until pretty much your senior year to start going hard,” Lyles said. “Start going when you’re young and start preparing now for when you are a senior.”
Lyles has grown as a player for three years as a Gremlin. Now his father, coach Ben Lyles, says it’s time to “take all the reins off and let him go play.”
“Year one it was kind of spoon fed to him,” coach Lyles said. “Here’s where you go with the ball this is how you manage it. Year two, we’ll give you a little bit more. Last year we gave him some more options to make decisions at the line. This year we’re going to say, ‘OK, you’re our guy. You’re the leader of the team and go make plays.’”
Chase said the leadership role has been on the shoulders of his teammates in the past, but added he’s ready to take his turn in line.
“In past years it’s been Hohne and some of the other guys stepping up and leading,” he said. “I think it’s my time to go out there and lead the team.”
To develop into a leader, coach Lyles said Chase has increased his workload each year, especially in the offseason.
“Each year you’ve kind of seen a progression where he’s taken a little bit more leadership in the offseason,” he said. “He’s been a little bit more vocal. You can see a lot of that this year.”
Chase said he’s played under his father since sixth grade and admitted they do “butt heads” at times, but overall their conversations away from the practice field or games are helpful.
“It’s nice to have somebody you can go home and talk to and tell them what’s going on and they understand what’s going on,” he said.
In the end, coach Lyles and Chase say they hope winning a Kaysinger Conference title is on the horizon for the Gremlins in the final season the pair will be together at SHS.
“That’s what I’ve been looking for,” Chase said.